Churches in Germany tackle racism in Christian communities

"Do good! Seek the right!", with this still current appeal from the Bible, Christians are praying worldwide these days for the unity of Christians and for racially sensitive coexistence in churches and society.

The central service for the week of prayer for Christian unity took place for Germany in the cultural metropolis of Frankfurt. Different people affected by racism demanded changes in attitude and handling of the topic in the churches.
For the service on Sunday, the 22nd January 2023 at 5:00 p.m. in the community center of the Freie evangelischen Gemeinde Frankfurt, the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Christlicher Kirchen in Deutschland (ACK = National Council of Churches) had invited together with the ACK Hessen-Rheinhessen and the ACK Frankfurt (regional church councils).

umerous representatives of churches and Christian communities from all over Germany had announced themselves for the divine service and the subsequent reception and thus underlined the relevance of the topic. Accordingly, the service room of the Protestant free church was filled, right in the heart of Frankfurt.
Words of self-admonition with a clear appeal
Dealing with one's own history and tradition is "an important topic for the churches regardless of denomination," the chairman of the ACK in Germany, the Greek Orthodox archpriest Radu Constantin Miron, sensitized to the topic of racism on the basis of a personal insight into his own biography at the beginning of his sermon.

"The questioning of one's own history does not pass the churches without a trace," Miron observed, adding that they are "not always glory sheets that open up in the historical review." Referring to the African American word "woke", which had recently become widespread in the Black Lives Matter movement, Miron warned that we finally wake up as 'dead Christianity 'from the sleep of security' and self-righteousness.
Creating culture of listening and safe places
Stefanie Bohn, pastor in Frankfurt-Sachsenhausen, took up this appeal in her reflection. "It is our responsibility as Christians to question and reflect on our positions of power." "The church is also not a space free of racism and non-discriminatory," the theologian pointed out latent everyday racism that she had experienced herself.

"The church must change its thinking patterns, structures and its organization," demanded Bohn. "A healing and processing process requires a so-called safe space, a protected framework with people who have had or have had similar experiences."
Pay more attention to experience of hatred and discrimination in churches
Brigitte Görgen-Grether, chairman of the ACK Hessen-Rheinhessen, joined Bohn's observations: "More attention must be paid to the experiences of hatred and discrimination in the churches. It is a painful story of guilt that we have to face as white people. The invitation of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah 'to seek' is a common ecumenical task and guideline!" closed the ecumenical officer of the diocese of Limburg.
Racism spreads in everyday life in all parts of society
"People are discriminated against and marginalized because of their skin color, religious affiliation, language or culture, also in our churches, congregations, state institutions and in our society," Pastor Annegreth Schilling explained in the divine service and added: "Often it is racism in everyday life that is widespread in all parts of society. The actions and thoughts are often not reflected," continues the chairman of ACK Frankfurt, "this hurts and excludes people."
Greeting from the city council and thanks for the divine service
At the subsequent reception, City Councilor Bernd Heidenreich welcomed the Christians all over the world in advocating the inalienable dignity of man wherever it is trampled underfoot," the former director of the Hessian State Centre for Civic Education expressed his thanks for the divine service. As the most international city in Germany, unity of diversity and the fight against racism are part of Frankfurt's lifeblood.
Search for unit: a concern for the whole year
Traditionally, the week of prayer for the unity of Christians in the northern hemisphere will take place from the 18th to the 25th. January committed. This period was proposed in 1908 by Paul Wattson, the initiator of the Week of Prayer, because it lies between the feasts of St. Peter and St. Paul and thus has a symbolic meaning for the unity of both apostles.

In the southern hemisphere, January is vacation time, and so the churches of the south often choose other days to celebrate the week of prayer, for example around Pentecost. This was proposed by the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches (WCC) as early as 1926. This is also a symbolic date for the unity of the Church. Aware that flexibility is necessary, the WCC invites you to "use the materials all year round to express the already achieved communion between the churches and to pray together for the full unity that Christ wants."